Google is not a mini-OS August 23, 2005
I ran across an article that called Google's new "Desktop Search" for Windows a "Mini Operating System". I posted a reply. When I think "Mini-OS", I certainly don't think of a program written to run on an operating system. When I think "Mini-OS", I'll tell you what I think: Embedded Linux. That's "mini" and that's an "OS".
So what does an operating system do exactly? The first and foremost job of an OS is to interface with the hardware; let you save files on disk, use your monitor, your modem, your attached peripherals like printers, digital cameras, webcams, and anything else. This includes interfacing with your network card and implementing the TCP/IP stack so you can connect to the internet. Also, it includes a "platform" for writing software, an Application Programming Interface (API). Lately, operating systems have included all types of goodies, like integrated search (Mac OS X) and widgets (Mac OS X). This is simply "value added" stuff. Since an operating system might come with these things built into them, it does not change the definition of an operating system. Even if adding "Mini" to the front of it makes your observations less serious, you still have "OS" at the end, invalidating your generalization. How about call it a "program". That's what I call it. A program that happens to search your files and have plugins for stuff like weather. I don't even use it and I know that it's not an operating system.
One comment came from Google.
--- "We're really trying to make this into a platform"
---- Nikhil Bhatla, product manager for Google Desktop.
That can be confusing. I'll have you know that Eclipse is called a platform. I don't boot my computer into the "Eclipse" OS, though. It's a Java editor. A very great one. What this person means is that they will be developing programs on top of it. Which is why Eclipse is called a platform, you can write PLUG-INS. Technology is so misunderstood.
I'm a stickler for technological phrases used in the right way. I'm sure doctors, architects, lawyers, and every other profession will get just as upset if you butcher their terminology. Like, if a man finds a person murdered in the alley, and calls the police and says "We have a grand theft auto here." I'm not the only one :)
Here's another thing about it. That site, "paidcontent.org", is apparently a pretty highly visited site, and one that is as qualified to interpret that Google quote as I am to interpret Shakespeare. They call Google Desktop a mini-OS. People who read that are going to just go ahead and agree, usually. Unless they study. And they'll make posts on their websites, and it's like that game we would play in 2nd grade. One person starts the chain by thinking of something to whisper, and it goes around til the last person, and the last person says what the message is. I don't care if it starts out as "An apple a day keeps the doctor away", it'll turn into something like "A quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog." Somehow. Let's just call into question every term that every past computer scientist has defined. I've run across at least 3 sites that refer to that post, and also call it a "Mini-OS".
This is another problem with the internet. If the facts are right, it's a beautiful filtering process, eventually making its way to everyone. But if it's wrong, it's like cancer.